Community College of Allegheny County: State-of-the-Art Film Technician Center Opens on South Campus

Margaret Anderson
Member Spotlight

The Community College of Allegheny County’s South Campus held a ribbon cutting ceremony in April 2019 to celebrate the opening of its new Film Center. Local dignitaries, administrators, faculty, staff, and students were in attendance to share in the festivities and view the space, which has been transformed to house the campus’s highly successful Film Technician program.

Launched at South Campus in the spring of 2017, CCAC’s Film Technician program is designed to address the shortage of qualified film crew members in the Pittsburgh region. The program focuses on the technical aspects of the filmmaking process and prepares students for a variety of careers in the film and television industry. Major players in the industry have joined program faculty to share their real-world knowledge and experience, and graduates have gone on to work on professional sets and even make their own movies.

The new center will better accommodate the rapidly growing program, which expanded from 30 students across four courses in spring 2018 to more than 130 students across 13 courses in spring 2019. The center features cutting-edge technology and includes a large film studio, set construction area, woodshop, sound room, computer lab, classroom, dressing room, and equipment center. Film Technician students learn a range of hands-on skills and create their own films, shooting in a variety of campus facilities as well as in public settings.

“All of the courses have a hands-on approach, so our students have the core skills they need to be successful,” said P.J. Gaynard, associate professor and director of the program. “This new center will definitely help us further our goal to prepare students for rewarding careers in the film and television industry.”

CCAC Film Technician student Ash Warren prepares to film a scene on a set constructed in the Film Center.

CCAC Film Technician student Ash Warren likes the fact that the program is focused on providing students with tangible skills and experiences that can lead to a job. As a first-year student in the program, Warren directed the short film, “A Visible Truth,” which was shown on WQED-TV, home of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, as part of Filmmakers Corner. Warren then gained real-world experience in the field of filmmaking by producing a documentary short on a local organization for writers living in exile as a WQED Next Generation Fellow. Upon completion of the fellowship, WQED hired Warren to continue working on documentaries to tell stories that connect viewers to the Pittsburgh region and the wider world.

“At CCAC, I’ve learned a lot of really wonderful skills that I use every single day,” said Warren, who holds a bachelor’s degree in women’s gender and sexuality studies from The Ohio State University. “CCAC is all about new opportunities. Before I came here, I knew that I wanted to work in film, but I really didn’t know much about the industry or how to turn my interest into a career. CCAC has given me the chance to discover what it means to be a filmmaker.”

Students and faculty in CCAC’s Film Technician Program gather on the South Campus
Theatre stage following a screening of the students’ films.

Every semester, the students present their final projects—a collection of short films, music videos, spec commercials, poster presentations, and cinematography reels—to the college and wider community. Work from other students in the department, such as built props, painted set pieces, and constructed sets, is also displayed. At the student screenings and showcase held in May, students presented 18 short films, 18 spec commercials, 13 music videos, and other projects to rousing applause from the audience.

Click here for more information about CCAC’s Film Technician program.

Lead image: Cutting the ribbon to open the CCAC Film Center

Margaret Anderson is a Promotions Writer in the Public Relations and Marketing Department at Community College of Allegheny County in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Opinions expressed in Member Spotlight are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the League for Innovation in the Community College.